Speak Softly, But Carry a Big Stick: Tom Sawyer and Company's Quest for Linguistic Power A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Tom Sawyer Abroad
Master of Arts (MA)
Primary Subject Area
Literature, American; Sociology, General
Mark Twain, Sociolinguistics
Social stigma associated with the way an individual speaks is not new, and language can be a powerful divider of people. Since the Norman Conquest of 1066, researchers have noted that certain English dialects have been more esteemed than others, and it is certainly well-documented that those who spoke these prestigious varieties were the authority figures. Sociolinguists have determined that one's identity is inextricably bound with the way one speaks, and Mark Twain, a nineteenth-century realist, was aware of this concept well before sociolinguistics became a defined field of study in the 1970s. Because he profusely uses varieties of English dialects in his novels, Twain's literature proves to be an ample source for a sociolinguistic study. In his novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1875), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894), Twain uses dialects as a means of developing his characters' personalities and social perceptions. Thus, this thesis describes how Twain's characters use language to manipulate others, assert authority, protect their identities, and develop intimate relationships.